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Monday, July 23, 2012

New Australian Cult

Another new cult has emerged in northern NSW, built on something that everyone seems to want - spiritual healing.  Serge Benhayon, a former tennis coach from Maroubra, has figured out an easy way to get rich quick by starting up a company called Universal Medicine, located in Lismore, once the Waccy Baccy capital of Australia.

With a name like Universal Medicine, one would assume that he has some medical qualifications but Serge admits he has none.  He sells three different "Eso-herbs" on line - Harmony, Re-balancing and Connection - for $40 a plastic tub.

He's in hot water with health authorities who are concerned that certain treatments are being subsidised by Medicare.  A physiotherapist, Kate Greenaway and psychologist Caroline Raphael, who both work at Universal Medicine, encourage patients to seek GP referrals for treatment and Medicare will reimburse two-thirds of the cost for long-term injuries.  Ms Greenaway offers "esoteric connective tissue therapy", a therapy created by Benhayon, that promises to improve energy flow "by allowing the pulse of the lymphatic system to symbiotically correspond with the body's own ensheathing web."

She said about 20 per cent of her clients were funded by Medicare and hundreds had experienced reduced pain as a result.  Her work includes "craniosacral massage" and even though it has no evidence-based scientific backing, Ms Greenaway found it very effective.

John Dwyer, former head of medicine at the University of NSW thinks it's rubbish and said "GP's might be sending a person in good faith to get  a legitimate therapy but what this person is getting is esoteric nonsense."

A statement from Medicare read "A Medicare benefit can only be paid where the service is rendered by an appropriate health practitioner and is 'clinically relevent' ....  It is up to the practitioner to determine whether a service they provide meets the criterial in the Medicare Benefits Schedule."

A former patient of Ms Greenaway who did not want to be named said "I went there because I felt so sick I could hardly walk" she said.  "After three sessions I was told my craniosacral pulse was getting better and my health was improving.  On the same day my doctor told me I had cancer.  I'm angry that really sick people might not be getting the treatment they need if they are believing what Serge tells them."

The director of Melbourne-based Cult Counselling Australia, Raphael Aron, is concerned about the treatments, especially the "esoteric breast massage" which claims to keep breast cancer at bay and "chakra-punture" offered by his sons Michael and Curtis for $70 an hour.  His daughter 22, claims to be able to talk to women's ovaries and also charges $70 an hour.  So the family business is going very well.

Serge owns six properties in the Lismore suburb of Goonellabah where the healing service is based and is also director of five companies associated with Universal Medicine including Fiery Investments Pty Ltd and Fiery Impulses Pty Ltd. 

Serge claims to have 1000 followers, mainly women and business is expanding, now in the UK. They call him 'The One' and believe him when he says he's the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci.

Serge had a brilliant idea that couldn't lose.  Gullible women looking for that elusive "something" missing from their lives have had their prayers answered and Serge was clever enough to put a name to it - he says his female students have merely discovered the "livingness of love" from his "esoteric way of life."

Universal Medicine is subject to three complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission.